Pinnacle did one thing right with the PCTV HD Pro Stick: It sized the device for notebook PC users. The bus-powered tuner is only slightly larger than a USB flash drive. Even better, the IR remote is just as small. Combined with the small telescopic antenna, this truly portable package lets you watch normal NTSC broadcast analog TV as well as ATSC signals, better known as terrestrial HDTV.
We installed the Stick on a notebook and ran into an odd problem: The audio was automatically configured to output over Bluetooth audio and we were unable to change the configuration. Strangely, the stream could be heard through the normal speakers, just not very loudly.
On a second notebook, the application installed correctly. While we’ve heard reports of high CPU utilization for HDTV playback and recording, our dual-core notebook didn’t break a sweat.
The tuner worked as expected. We were able to watch static-filled analog TV as well as digital signals, although on some channels the closed-caption encoding showed up on the top of the frame. Pinnacle said it’s working on the issue.
Moving from channel to channel is a tad slow, but acceptable. Although we did experience a lockup, it seemed to be an isolated experience. The included software supports basic PVR functionality, such as pausing and fast-forwarding, and you get a free one-year subscription to electronic program guide info.
One weakness of the Stick: It doesn’t work with unencrypted QAM signals, the HDTV broadcast standard that most cable companies use. We were also concerned about the magnetic base on the antenna, but Pinnacle says it has used the device on other products and has never received any reports of scrambled data; the official statement: “Don’t worry about it.” Your comfort level will depend on how strongly you feel about computers and magnets mixing.
+ HAPPY DAYS: Damn, it's small, and it does HDTV.
- JOANIE LOVES CHACHI: Magnetic base on antenna cannot be removed.